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News in Brief

California: Thanks to the state’s new police accountability law, Californians know more about police misconduct. For example, public records show former Fairfield Police Officer Joe Griego had a history of harassment complaints by women at Paradise Valley Golf Course, where they dubbed him “creepy Joe.” According to mercurynews.com: “He grabbed one woman by the breast and asked her if her ‘boobs’ were real. Another worker, who was nine months pregnant, said she overheard Griego saying falsely that he was her baby’s father. He also told his golfing partners, who included current and former officers and Fairfield City Councilman Chuck Timm, that ‘he wanted to get a piece of her,’ according to detailed documents released by the Fairfield Police department Wednesday [March 27] under Senate Bill 1421. …” Other women also complained about unwelcome advances from Griego, who called two investigations into his behavior “witch hunts.” Other Fairfield officers have been the subject of complaints as well. Griego left the department in 2015 after having been suspended for a month earlier that year.

Delaware: In 2015, a simple declaration reported in The Washington Post about hair evidence shocked the world of criminal justice: “The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.” So, what will become of individuals convicted based on this erroneous evidence? Delaware, it turns out, will conduct “an independent review of criminal convictions obtained prior to the year 2000 on the back of a ‘highly unreliable’ hair comparison analysis method resulting in ‘potentially questionable hair evidence’ used in those cases,” wdel.com reports. “Given the serious issues that the FBI’s errors have raised, said Attorney General Kathy Jennings, “I believe that this review is the most responsible step we can take. I’m grateful for the impartiality and experience of the experts we’ve enlisted and will address the impact of their findings on the integrity of the convictions.” Similar audits have taken place in Texas, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. 

Florida: Investigators say 36-year-old Leonel Marines used his badge and the Bradenton Police Department databases in order to find people to date, an internal affairs investigation revealed, then contacted them via social media, phone, and/or home visits under the guise of police business, lawandcrime.com reports. A tip-off was a 2018 complaint following a stop Marines made at a couple’s home asking to speak to their daughter about a domestic situation. Her parents doubted this and asked for info on his supervisor. “When Marines refused to answer and left, the couple immediately called the station to report the incident,” The Washington Post reports.  “As far as I’m concerned, he betrayed the oath he swore to,” Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan told reporters after Marines resigned. The databases are only to be used for official police business.

Germany: A town council went after a family over unpaid taxes — going so far as to legally seize their beloved year-old pug, Edda, and sell her on ebay. The heartless officials in Ahlen, “armed with a search warrant, found a laptop, a coffee machine and the wheelchair of one family member,” but settled on selling the family pet, washingtonpost.com reports, citing the German publication Die Glocke. Priced at $850, the dog fetched a “slightly lower price” in December 2018, but immediately racked up more than $2,000 in veterinary bills to cover several surgeries for eye infections. The new owners are now hurting in their wallets - and the original owners in their hearts, including three children who adored the pooch.  Edda experienced a severe eye infection that required four surgeries with a fifth one planned, racking up more than $2,000 in veterinary bills, washingtonpost.com reports. The city spokesman said the incident would be investigated.

Indiana: Two Elkhart officers were charged with excessive force after video showed them beating a handcuffed man in a chair in January 2018 during booking at the city police station, reason.com reports. “At one point Guerrero Ledesma spat toward Newland. Titus and Newland immediately punched Guerrero Ledesma in the face, causing him to fall backward onto the floor, then jumped on top of him and punched him repeatedly,” southbendtribune.com reports. “Guerrero Ledesma had initially been arrested on suspicion of domestic battery.” Both officers face a single count of deprivation of rights under color of law. On March 21, 2019, they were indicted “by a federal grand jury in Hammond for using excessive force against an arrestee,” according to a Department of Justice press release. “This charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for both defendants.”

New Jersey: A two-year-old FBI probe into law enforcement misconduct, from shakedowns to drug deals, has ensnared some of the Paterson Police Department’s men in blue. In March 2019, Daniel Pent became the sixth Paterson officer arrested, then charged with conspiracy to violate civil rights. “Pent is accused of taking money from people during illegal traffic stops, including one instance in which he and another accused officer, Eudy Ramos, allegedly stole $10,000 from a passenger in a vehicle they pulled over, according to the charges against him,” the Paterson Press reports. Ramos even allegedly boasted about it in text messages. He was released on $100,000 bond after appearing in federal court wearing leg irons and handcuffs. “Court records indicate that at least one more city police officer is suspected of participating in the wrongdoing, but authorities have not identified him,” the newspaper reports. “Two other officers were charged with separate crimes,” reports forensicmag.com. “Last June, Ruben McAusland admitted dealing drugs — including some he stole from a crime scene while on duty — and taking part in the unrelated assault of a hospital patient.” Both the Paterson department and the FBI collaborated on the investigation. Records show that at least four of the officers graduated from the same police academy in 2014. Two of the confidential witnesses are officers.

New York: A police officer in the city’s Department of Environmental Protection stands accused of manufacturing dozens of guns and assault weapons and selling them to criminals, plus tipping off a drug suspect about an investigation, according to recordonline.com. State Police report that Sergeant Gregg Marinelli, 38, of Plattekill, was arrested in March 2019 and charged with criminal sale of a firearm, two counts of criminal possession of a weapon, manufacture/disposition of a weapon, conspiracy and hindering prosecution, the State Police said. The officer was making “‘ghost’ guns, either without serial numbers or with the serial numbers defaced or obscured to render them untraceable if they were used in a crime,” police report. The officer delivered them to “members of self-professed outlaw motorcycle clubs” while using his marked DEP police car, prosecutors said. Authorities learned about his activity while working on “Operation: Bread, White and Blues,” a cocaine- and fentanyl-trafficking investigation in February. A search warrant at Marinelli’s home yielded gun parts, manufacturing tools and firearms. Those who purchased guns from Marinelli are asked to turn them in.

New York: Former New York Police Department detective Michael Foder was sentenced to three months in the slammer after pleading guilty in 2018 to perjury for lying under oath. Authorities say that in a federal carjacking case, the 42-year-old cop identified perpetrators by carrying “out unofficial photo lineups on WhatsApp, then falsified paperwork to make it look like he did them by the book,” nydailynews.com reports. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Reilly “said that in more than one instance, Foder asked the carjacking victim to identify suspects through photos sent via WhatsApp, then backdated photo array lineups conducted more than a month later to the date he sent the messages.” Foder, of Staten Island, was assigned to the 70th Precinct in Flatbush for a little more than a year.

Ohio: A courtroom outburst added six years to the sentence of Manson Bryant, who had asked for leniency from Lake County Judge Eugene Lucci in early March 2019. Instead, he was sentenced to 28 years, the rawstory.com reports. “You’re racist as f*ck! You’re racist as f*ck!” he told the judge after hearing the 22-year sentence for aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, kidnapping, abduction, having weapons under disability and carrying concealed weapons. The judge interrupted Bryant. “When I said you had a certain amount remorse? I was mistaken. The court’s determined the maximum amount is needed,” Lucci said “as Bryant screamed ‘let me out! Let me out!’ and pounded his fists on the jury box.”

Ohio: FBI investigators report that Vice Detective Andrew K. Mitchell of the Columbus, Ohio, Division of Police, pretended to arrest women and then forced them to perform sex acts in exchange for their freedom, columbusunderground.com reports. He faces seven counts, including three counts of depriving individuals of their civil rights while acting as a law enforcement officer, two counts of witness tampering, one count of obstructing justice, and one count of making false statements to federal agents. Starting in summer 2017, “Mitchell allegedly kidnapped a victim and transported her to another location, where she performed oral sex in exchange for her freedom. In September of that year, Mitchell allegedly kidnapped a second victim, transported her to another location and forced the victim to engage in vaginal sex for her freedom. In late spring of 2018, Mitchell picked up the second victim again, transported her to a different location and, in exchange for her freedom, traded anal sex.” Authorities also accuse him of tampering with witnesses, namely two victims. “He also allegedly attempted to influence, delay and prevent the testimony of a fifth victim in an official proceeding before a federal grand jury,” reports columbusunderground.com. In addition, “Mitchell allegedly provided false information, stating he had never had sex with a prostitute when, in fact, it is alleged that Mitchell has had sex with numerous prostitutes and has paid women money for sex.” Finally, the officer is being probed in the fatal shooting of Donna Castleberry, 23, in August 2018 while he was investigating a prostitution complaint. 

Nevada: Las Vegas Metro Police officer Rachel Sorkow was arrested in March 2019 on multiple charges after troubling videos on her cellphone were shared with co-workers, friends and family, lasvegassun.com reports. Included was footage of her making a man said to be mentally ill and wearing a dress “dougie” and “twerk,” according to the Las Vegas Sun. She also reportedly made fun of the weight of a 250-pound woman while answering a domestic violence call. In addition, she “taunted a handcuffed man as an officer force-fed him gummy bears, and used a racial epithet in conversation with an indecent exposure suspect, who she asked to see his genitalia, according to her arrest affidavit.” She faces “five felony counts of misconduct by a public officer, and one gross misdemeanor each of capturing the image of the private area of another person and indecent exposure, Metro said. She was relieved with pay in December and dismissed” in March. In addition, she “broke the law when she allegedly searched addresses, arrest records and license plate numbers of ‘potential boyfriends or girlfriends of friends and family,’” reports foxnews.com.

Tennessee: Matthew Charles finally has a home after struggling to find housing subsequent to his release from a Kentucky prison Jan. 3, 2019. He was the first person freed under the First Step Act, which includes a provision to apply the Fair Sentencing Act retroactively. However, the former prisoner’s lease applications were denied because of his lack of credit and his criminal record, even with Kim Kardashian-West pledging to cover his rent for five years and with the White House calling his life “a story of redemption.” Charles used Facebook to thank Kim and her husband Kayne West, plus numerous other supporters, and even posted a photo of the home key, according to nbcnews.com. “I am glad that Kim has stood with me since her hearing of my inhumane reincarceration situation back when I was ordered to return to prison (after serving over 21 years, and being free for nearly two years as a very productive member of society, ) to serve the remaining ten years of a sentence based on ... for a non-violent drug offense, and for Kim standing with me now since being released, against societal obstacles to reentry that added insult to my injury/injustice.” Charles is also working for Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a nonprofit justice reform advocacy group.

Texas: A Houston police sergeant who reportedly thought his wife was flirting with a family friend allegedly killed her in their Pearland home, then fled to a Kingsville (near Corpus Christi), where he was arrested in March 2019, abc13.com reports. Hilario Hernandez faces murder charges in the fatal shooting of Belinda Hernandez, an elementary school librarian. According to court documents and lawandcrime.com: “The couple’s daughter reportedly said that they (she, the victim, her husband, and a family friend) were drinking on Saturday. She later texted her mom to tell her she returned home safe, but Belinda Hernandez didn’t reply. Defendant Hilario picked up the phone when the daughter called a second time. He allegedly insisted that everything was okay, and he hung up.” Concerned that her mother had not answered the phone herself, the daughter and her husband returned to the home. They discovered her mother face down on the kitchen floor with gunshot wounds. According to khou.com, “officers found a handgun, an empty magazine and several shell casings at the scene.” The officers pinged the suspect’s phone and located him. He was being held in March 2019 on a $800,000 bond in the Brazoria County Jail. 

Texas: Even handing out a dog poop sandwich might not keep San Antonio police officer Matthew Luckhurst off the police force, according to news reports. The officer was suspended in 2016 after giving a homeless man a slice of bread filled with dog shit inside a food container in a parking lot facility. “If the homeless man had eaten it and gotten sick, the City of San Antonio could have been found liable,” reason.com reports. Luckhurst “fought back and apparently won on a technicality,” reason.com reports. “There’s a 180-day clock on disciplining police officers for misbehavior (absent criminal charges). Apparently, due to some confusion over when the incident took place, the authorities missed the window. So [in March 2019] an arbitration panel has ruled that the San Antonio police could not fire Luckhurst over this incident.” However, CBS reports that “Luckhurst remains off the job while appealing another unrelated indefinite suspension.”

Virginia: A school resource officer was suspended from his job in March 2019 after it was revealed that he spent his spare time recruiting for a white nationalist group. Theroot.com cites a report that “Daniel Morley, a 31-year-old cop working at L.C. Bird High School, was identified by anti-fascist activists, also known as antifa, who pored over Identity Evropa’s leaked group chat logs. The data was published by independent media organization Unicorn Riot.” Evropa is also known as “American Identity Movement.” According to huffpost.com: “Morley — using the moniker ‘Danimal876’ — had been posting on the white nationalist group’s private chat server since at least 2017, according to The Daily Beast. He used that handle on multiple platforms, including the white supremacist forum Stormfront, to espouse racist views and engage with likeminded bigots as far back as 2009.” Meanwhile, huffpost.com reports that a video of him posted in August 2018 by Chesterfield County Police, features him saying: “I want to ensure that the children of this county have the same safe childhood that I had growing up.” 

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